On a cold and blustery day on October 28, 1961, shovels broke ground in Queens for the first stadium to be built in New York City since 1923. The steel and concrete structure that grew in Flushing was originally going to be named “Flushing Meadows Stadium” but in the fall of 1962, civic leader Bernard Gimbel spearheaded a campaign to rename the facility Shea Stadium in honor of the man (popular attorney William A. Shea) who was the driving force in bringing a National League team back to the Big Apple. 

The architectural firm of Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury designed the stadium to be the second all-purpose facility in the country capable of hosting baseball and football games, seating 55,300 for baseball and over 60,000 for New York Jets games. D.C. Stadium in Washington, opened in 1962, was the first all-purpose facility built just a year earlier. In June of 1962, steel grids began crawling skyward. Six months later the shell of Shea was completed and by July of 1963 pre-cast concrete units covered the steel framework. 

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Two bitterly cold winters in 1962 and 1963 and more than 17 different labor strikes forced Shea to open a year later than planned. The 45-acre plot where the young Mets could finally feel at home was the same land the city offered to Dodgers President Walter O’Malley in the mid 1950’s before he bolted for the comforts of Los Angeles. (Folklore stories have long rumored that when city officials scouted out stadium sites, they went during the winter, when flight paths into LaGuardia are different, so they never anticipated the amount of aircraft noise during the summer).

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